I was nine years of age in November 1963. Although I don’t recall most of the events, one incident sticks in my mind from then until now: The assassination and murder of President John F. Kennedy. This singular act changed the course of the country, and the world.
My son was eighteen years old in September 2001. His memory is also hazy on most world events of that time. He does recall being at school and hearing his teachers talk about something important and tragic. He saw the Twin Towers of New York City’s World Trade Center fall when he returned home that night. That was another act that changed direction of the world.
These are the reasons I mention them. These are two defining moments in two generations that shaped their worldview forever. This is important for us as citizens of the world and as leaders in organizations. What are their most memorable moments? What is their vision of the world?
According to the Center for Generational Kinetics there are currently five generations working in the workforce.
The iGeneration or GenZ was born 1996 and thereafter
Generation Y (Millennials) was born between 1977 and 1995.
Generation X, born 1965-1976
Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964
Traditionalists, also known as the Greatest Generation, were born in 1945 or earlier.
I will be the first to admit that there are not many traditionalists in the workforce, and that even boomers are beginning to retire. There are still many boomers, like me, in the workforce, and many of them manage the previous generations.
Let’s take just one generation to illustrate: In 2010, a Harvard Business Review article predicted half of the workforce would be millennials by 2014. We have been long past that milestone, and 2017 is no different. So I’ll be focusing on the relationship between boomers and millennials in work.
Boomers need to ask themselves this question: How do we communicate with the younger generations? This topic was the subject of an interesting conversation I had with two fellow project managers. One of the project managers was becoming increasingly frustrated by the way millennials communicate.
“They have very short attention spans!” “They are always looking at their phones!” “They don’t read the newspaper!” It dawned on my that this guy was part the problem and not the solution. Because he continued to see the situation through the lens of his generation, and not the one he was managing.
I believe it is important to expand on the previous example of major events of millennials or baby boomers. It is crucial, I think, that we consider how these two groups view the world.
The baby boomers were the children and grandchildren of a more traditional generation. They tried to break free from the expectations of their parents. They were able to make significant changes in society due to their sheer numbers. They were all good, but I won’t argue with that. But there was change. They are the Woodstock generation. Personally, I believe that the boomers had one foot in each generation and one in the previous. Although they seemed radical at the time, they were still able to communicate and relate in some ways. They have become more conservative with age, just like all generations before them.
Millennials are largely the grandchildren of boomers. They are often called “entitled,” which I think is unfair. (In a class that I taught, one woman’s knee-jerk response was to use this expression while shaking her heads. It does not help to label each generation and extol our generation’s greatness. Which generation doesn’t have its flaws?
What is the difference between millennials?